Turkish interior minister signals new wave of anti-PKK operations

Turkish interior minister signals new wave of anti-PKK operations

Turkish interior minister signals new wave of anti-PKK operations

AA Photo

Interior Minister Efkan Ala signaled on March 11 the start of new operations against militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey, following the conclusion of military operations targeting the militant group in two southeastern towns.

“Eight districts have been cleared. But there are still trenches and barricades in Yüksekova, downtown Şırnak and Nusaybin. The information we have gathered shows bombing traps placed there, so clearances will be conducted in those districts too,” Ala told reporters in Ankara on March 11, heralding fresh military operations in Yüksekova, a district in the southeastern province of Hakkari; the central district of the southeastern province of Şırnak; and Nusaybin, a district in the southeastern province of Mardin.

“No matter where they are, all barricades will be removed. We’re going to start operations after necessary preparations,” Ala said, adding that curfews would be announced to residents of Nusaybin, downtown Şırnak and Yüksekova before going into effect.

“The starting of operations has been communicated to our citizens by local officials a few days – or sometimes half-a-day - in advance,” he stated.

Turkey has recently conducted sweeping ground operations targeting the PKK in the southeast, with local governors imposing curfews in several towns to remove militants from the area as well as to remove barricades and trenches.

Clashes during operations against the militant group have seen casualties among Turkish security forces, militants and some locals.

Most recently, Specialized Sergeant Vedat Öz, who was wounded on Feb. 18 in clashes with the PKK in Sur, a district in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, succumbed to his injuries late on March 10, the Turkish General Staff said in a written statement, extending condolences to the friends and family of the soldier. 

Öz was being treated at the Gülhane Military Academy (GATA) in Ankara when he died. 

The General Staff said in a separate written statement early on March 11 that seven PKK militants were killed in Sur on March 10, after a 103-day military campaign in the southeastern district ended on March 9.

“Overall, 279 members of the separatist terrorist organization have been killed in operations in Sur, 206 barricades have been removed, and 365 improvised explosive devices [IEDs] have been deactivated,” the General Staff said in a written statement on March 10, released as a first official report of the number of militants killed during large-scale operations in Sur, which has been under a blanket curfew since Dec. 2, 2015.

The army also stated that patrols, searches and checks were still ongoing in Sur to fill trenches and remove barricades created by PKK militants.

Sur is the restive central district in the city of Diyarbakır where prominent lawyer and human rights activist Tahir Elçi was shot dead during clashes that erupted after gunmen opened fire at a police post on Nov. 28, 2015.